Darling Downs Health-e-Regions project expands to new towns

The small towns of Tara and Wandoan in the western Darling Downs region have been added to the University of Queensland's Health-e-Regions telehealth project, joining Dalby, Chinchilla and Miles in receiving improved access to specialist care.

Half a million dollars in extra funding has been contributed by coal seam gas company QGC, the main sponsor of the project, to expand it to Tara and Wandoan, allowing patients and local clinicians to video conference with specialists from hospitals in Toowoomba and Brisbane.

Health-e-Regions has been running for over a year and in that time has seen a doubling of telehealth services provided. Elderly patients in Dalby Hospital and residents of the Illoura aged care facility in Chinchilla are now receiving regular sessions with geriatricians from the Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH) in Brisbane.

The project is also working with local GPs to help improve the referral process for specialist consultations by video.

As with the services being developed for the three original towns, the Health-e-Regions team, led by UQ's Centre for Online Health (COH), will work closely with the new additions to develop services based on need, COH deputy director Anthony Smith said.

“We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response from patients who have had a telehealth appointment as part of the Health-e-Regions project, and are looking forward to engaging with the Tara and Wandoan community to generate telehealth services specific to their needs,” Associate Professor Smith said.

QGC's vice-president for sustainability, Brett Smith, said the service would also benefit employees living and working in the region.

“From our own experience, we have staff living in the region whose families are benefitting from not having to travel to Brisbane for regular specialist appointments,” Mr Smith said. “They are able to live their lives without having to constantly plan around those visits.’’

QGC provided $1.3 million for the original project, which covers the cost of equipment installations and development costs. As part of the COH philosophy, however, the plan is to devise telehealth models that are financially sustainable.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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